Free Farm-to-Fork Festival keeps growing

If there’s an operative word for Saturday’s free Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall, it’s “more” – as in more locally grown food, wine and craft beer; more entertainment; more cooking demonstrations and panel discussions.

“Last year, we had four demonstration stages; this year, we have seven,” said Mike Testa, chief operating officer of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, which organizes the festival. “The first year, we had seven food vendors; now we have more than 60 – and 30 more vendors overall from last year.

“The biggest difference is that now people know what (the festival) is and want to be part of it,” he added. “We sold out of our vendor booth spaces a month ago.”

Part of the culminating weekend of Sacramento’s third annual Farm-to-Fork celebration, this four-block family-friendly “fresh food party” will feature more than 130 participating restaurants, wineries, breweries, farms, ranches and other food producers.

Organizers expect a large turnout at the festival, which aims to connect people of all ages with the folks who grow and produce their food.

“Part of the challenge of an event like this is not knowing how many people will attend – it’s free,” Testa said. “The first year, we expected 10,000 and 25,000 showed up. We could top last year’s 35,000.”

Attracting interest from producers and farmers throughout the region, the Farm-to-Fork Festival showcases the region’s agricultural bounty. The California Rice Commission will be on hand, as well as California Endive Farms, Bee Love Sacramento and other organizations.

There will plenty to see and taste. In addition to food vendors such as Chando’s Tacos and Shoki Ramen House, three dozen local wineries will offer tastings. Brewer’s Alley also has been expanded.

Chefs will test their skills at the Big Green Egg stage, where local culinary stars such as Allyson Harvie (LowBrau), Michael Tuohy (Legends) and Brian Mizner (Hook & Ladder) will show how to best use the egg-shaped ceramic cooker. At the Whole Foods stage, Danny Johnson of Taylor’s Market and other local chefs will participate in a hog butchering competition.

Music, topped by popular folk/pop singer Brett Dennen at 5 p.m., adds to the festival’s mix of food-centric entertainment.

“The reason why we’re the farm-to-fork capital is because of all these local producers and farmers,” Testa said. “We knew we had something here when we started, but the progress and growth of this event has been really incredible.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Farm-to-Fork Festival

Where: Capitol Mall Greens, Third to Seventh streets, Sacramento

When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday

Cost: Free

Information: 916-808-7777, www.farmtofork.com